Many of us know someone who has suffered from dementia, particularly the most common form as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia can severely interfere with daily life, and in recent years, some researchers have even redefined it as a terminal illness. Although certain cases of dementia cannot be prevented—for instance, a genetic mutation—studies have shown that the risk can be lowered in some instances through lifestyle changes. Here are some tips for reducing your risk today.
Keep your heart healthy
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels may increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. Some autopsy studies have found that as many as 80 percent of people with Alzheimer’s also have cardiovascular disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Although more research is needed to understand the link between heart disease and dementia, the Association says, it’s important to keep your heart healthy to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke as well. (Check out our heart-healthy tips here.)
Get enough vitamin D
In older adults, a lack of vitamin D may double the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the Neurology journal. Researchers found that those with low levels of the vitamin were 53 percent more likely to develop dementia, and those with severely low levels had a 125 percent increased risk. During the dark days of winter, in particular, load up on vitamin D-rich foods including milk, eggs, mushrooms and fatty fish. Also be sure to spend a little time in the sun—but always protect your skin (Read about our tips for choosing a healthy sunscreen.)
Keep your brain busy
Studies show that intellectual stimulation and social interaction may help combat memory loss. Consider volunteering, playing memory games or learning a new language to stimulate your mind and meet new people. A study published last year found that lifelong bilingualism contributes to “brain cognitive reserve” and acts as a powerful tool against dementia. Even if you aren’t currently bilingual, it’s never too late to learn a new language simply to keep your mind active and broaden your communication skills.
Avoid head injuries
The Alzheimer’s Association cautions that serious head trauma, especially those that cause unconsciousness, can increase the risk of future Alzheimer’s. Although accidents can always happen, you can reduce your risk of injury by wearing a seatbelt, using a helmet when playing sports or riding a bike, and removing trip hazards from your floor.
Exercise and eat wholesome foods
The Alzheimer’s Association says that regular physical exercise may reduce the risk of dementia because it can increase blood and oxygen flow in the brain. In addition, consider a heart-healthy meal plan such as the Mediterranean diet. At Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we teach over 100 dietary theories, so we encourage you to find the best foods for your individual needs. Whatever the case, be sure to incorporate heart-healthy foods into your life to reduce the risk of dementia and other diseases.
How do you keep your mind stimulated? Share with us below.